Black-Owned Pharmacy Reopens as Public Museum

Image: courtesy of Smith Drug Co. of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Smith Drug Co. of Hattiesburg, Mississippi was once a bustling pharmacy that filled a deep need for the city’s Black community. Founded and operated by Hammond Smith for 55 years—until Smith retired in 1980, the drugstore offered much more than medicine and key must-haves, it was a place for community and congregation.

After Smith’s retirement, the location played home to another drugstore, before sitting vacant and falling into despair. Now, the once burgeoning business has new life. Last weekend Smith Drug Co. opened its doors to the public with once-dilapidated furnishings having been restored to its 1950s state.   

From now through August, the former pharmacy will be open for tours and for visitors to sample a malt, milkshake or float from the vintage soda fountain, according to a press release shared with EBONY. The fountain was once a favorite of local high school students who frequented the store. The site is part of Hattiesburg’s Sixth Street Museum District, the African American cultural hub of the city, featuring museums that showcase the city’s history and heritage. To the delight of residents and former patrons who remember the building in its heyday, this historic civil rights landmark has been given a new purpose.

Smith Drug Co. was established in 1925 by E. Hammond Smith. For more than five decades the family ran the business, even during the height of the civil rights movement. As Black Americans were fighting for the right to vote, among other freedoms, the pharmacy served as a hub for voter registration, a meeting place for local leaders and activists, and a symbol of hope for its Black community members. The store is located on Mobile Street, which was once considered the epicenter of African American commercial activity prior to desegregation. After serving the community for 71 years, the drugstore closed its doors in 1996 and became one of the longest continually running Black-owned businesses in Hattiesburg.  

In 2020 the building was acquired by the City of Hattiesburg. The Hattiesburg Convention Commission chose to renovate and restore the building to resemble the 1950s outpost.

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